Are you looking for the best place to stay on Oahu for families with kids of all ages? Keep scrolling to read my honest Disney Aulani Resort review.
This Disney Aulani Resort review was written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Are you looking for a family-friendly resort in Oahu?
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, is the perfect place to stay if you’re traveling with your kids. It has everything from kid-friendly pools and activities to delicious restaurants that will make everyone happy! I’ll tell you all about Disney Hawaii Aulani below.
You can relax knowing your kids are having fun while also enjoying their own vacation at this beautiful Hawaii resort. Plus, there are plenty of things for adults too!
We stayed at Aulani twice now and loved every minute of our time there. If you want to know what we did during our trip, keep reading my honest Aulani reviews and tips below!
I’ll even share some tips on how to save money on food and activities so that your family can have an affordable vacation without sacrificing quality or fun.
You’ll be able to make memories that will last a lifetime when visiting one of these top-rated Hawaii hotels on Oahu with your family!
If you are wondering, “is Aulani worth it?” scroll down to read my review of Disney Aulani in Hawaii.
Don’t have time to read a bunch of Hawaii blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Oahu with kids.
Best Kid-Friendly Oahu Tours/Activities
- Kualoa Ranch UTV Tour (drive around Jurassic Valley with kids as young as 5yo)
- Private Surf Lessons for Kids (this is the BEST way for your kids to learn how to surf in Hawaii)
- Hawaii Bucket List Tour (this is a custom circle island tour that’s our personal favorite)
- Toa Luau (the is the most popular luau for families)
- CLIMB Works Ziplining (this is the top kid-friendly zipline on Oahu for families)
- Secret Island (this is a private beach area with water toys)
Best Kid-Friendly Oahu Resorts
- Hilton Hawaiian Village (this is our favorite Waikiki resort because of the amazing pool area and nearby restaurants)
- Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa (this is a splurge that is totally worth it)
- Turtle Bay Resort (this is a swanky resort with incredible kids’ programming tucked away in North Shore Oahu)
Want to Rent a Car in Hawaii?
One of the best places to rent a car in Hawaii is Discount Hawaii Car Rental because they get the best rates from top national companies like Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty, Avis, Enterprise, Budget, and Payless.
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Oahu Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Where is the Disney Aulani Resort?
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa is located in Ko Olina on the island of Oahu. It’s about 25 minutes from the Honolulu Airport (or an hour with traffic). The address is 92-1185 Ali’inui Dr, Kapolei, HI 96707.
Because of the dry weather, we think this is one of the best areas to stay on Oahu.
Honest Disney Aulani Review
This was our second time staying at Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii, but I’ll focus my Disney Hawaii review on our most recent trip in November 2021.
I’d been reading tons of Disney Aulani reviews in Facebook groups, and that’s how we figured out which room to reserve. This is one of the best Oahu family resorts with a variety of room types and capacities.
What was our room like?
Our room was AMAZING! We actually had to reschedule our Spring Break 2020 trip and needed to use up the DVC points we rented. The only rooms they had available for Thanksgiving week was a 2-bedroom villa that slept 9 people.
This was the most spacious set-up for our family of four, and I almost wished we would have invited other people to join us.
The bedrooms themselves were fabulous. We had a master suite with a king-size bed and a huge bathroom that included a soaking tub.
There was also a kid’s room with 2 queen beds and a full bathroom with a bathtub.
There was a full kitchen with all kinds of amenities, including a rice cooker! We were only there 4 nights, so we didn’t use much more than the microwave and fridge. But, it would be really easy to have groceries delivered and save money by cooking meals.
I was most thankful for the in-unit washer/dryer. We had been traveling before we arrived at Aulani and brought a lot of dirty laundry with us.
There was also a nice living room space with a couch, chairs, and even a TV. Actually, there were TVs in both bedrooms, too.
Our lanai was massive and featured 3 sets of tables and chairs. It was perfect for doing coffee and breakfast outside. While it wasn’t an ocean view, it was still a really nice private balcony.
Huge Disney fans will love all the subtle Disney things all over the resort, especially in the rooms. This resort definitely has the Disney magic for sure!
Last time, we stayed in standard hotel rooms with a mini fridge and other room service we enjoyed, and it was still really nice. The only downside was there wasn’t enough space to eat dinner in the room.
The vacation club villas are quite incredible and are perfect for families who are visiting.
Find the BEST deals for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa HERE.
What did we think of the dining options?
There are several places to eat at Aulani Resort in Oahu. I’ll talk about each one below for some Aulani restaurant reviews.
This is where they hold the Aulani Character Breakfast, but it’s also a regular restaurant the rest of the time. We’ve only eaten here for the character breakfast at Aulani, and the food was pretty tasty. The menus feature Hawaiian staples that you will love. It is one of the full-service restaurants Disney’s Aulani has to offer.
Read my full Aulani Character Breakfast review HERE.
Off the Hook
This is a poolside restaurant located behind the water slide. They have a full kids menu as well as tasty options like fish tacos and burgers.
And this is the place to get fancy cocktails or fun drinks for kids.
This is the main grab-and-go food option. It’s located down by the pool area right across from Wailana Coffee.
Not only can you buy pre-packed sandwiches, salads, snacks, drinks, and other items, but they have a grill where you order pizza, hot breakfast items, and more.
Wailana Pool Bar & Coffee
This is the coffee stand at Disney Aulani. It’s located in the back of the pool area and always has a line every morning for the island vintage coffee. They have a pretty extensive menu of drinks. I recommend the Aulani Special, which has macadamia nut syrup.
They also have grab-and-go breakfast pastries and treats. Some of them even feature Mickey Mouse!
Later in the day, you can come here to get frozen cocktails or even non-alcoholic pina coladas which are fantastic.
The Olelo Room
This is sort of a Hawaiian-themed lounge where you can get fun drinks and appetizers. We didn’t have an opportunity to try it, but it sounds nice for late-night dining.
Papalua Shave Ice
My family LOVES shave ice, but according to my kids, the shave ice at Aulani is a “hot mess.” It’s much more like a snow cone than Hawaiian shave ice. Part of the problem is that the cup they use has a flat rim, so the melted shave ice pools up and drips right off the cup.
love the fact that you can upgrade it to have Mickey ears (which is super cute for photos), but you’ll need to immediately eat the ears after your pic. We saw a lot of people just biting into their Mickey-shaped shave ice while walking around, which again makes it more like a snow cone.
Mama’s Snack Stop
This is an easy place to get hot food by the pool. It’s a little stand right next to Papalua’s Shave Ice. We did fish and chips here, and it was pretty tasty. The food also came out quicker than we expected.
This is a snack stand on the beach right in front of Disney Aulani. It was closed when we were at the beach, but it seemed like an easy place to refuel while playing in the lagoon.
Book a Family Photo Shoot
Whenever we travel to Hawaii, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND it guarantees that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.
Nearby Places to Eat
Disney Aulani Resort is also located right next to the Four Seasons, and you can make reservations for their restaurants and easily walk over. While there are plenty of dining options on-site, it’s great to have nearby places to eat as well.
Across the street, there are two shopping centers with restaurants. The most popular restaurant is Monkeypod Kitchen (they have the best mai tai in Hawaii). There’s also a Mexican restaurant that opened in November 2021 called Mekiko Cantina. Plus, you can pick up grab-and-go food from Island Country Markets.
Find the BEST deals for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa HERE.
Disney Aulani Pool Area
One of the main reasons that people love Disney Aulani is that they have an amazing pool area. It’s actually a bunch of pools, all situated in the center of the resort. Some are zero-entry, infinity pools, or just regular pools.
If you have kids who love pool time, Aulani is one of the best places to stay in Oahu.
I’ll chat about the most popular features below. They also have complimentary life jackets for kids. Oh, and they have cubbies to put your stuff in if you can’t find a chair.
One of the best things to do at Aulani resort is hang out in the lazy river. It goes through part of the pool area. You’ll need to grab an inner tube (they have singles or doubles) and enjoy a relaxing float.
You’ll go under a few bridges and dodge some waterfalls and spouting water. There are several places to enter/exit the lazy river.
And you don’t really need an inner tube to enjoy it. My kids had fun just swimming around there.
There are a few water slides at Aulani. Near the lazy river, you can do their water slide with an inner tube or their body slide. My 7yo and my husband thought the inner tube one was a blast!
There are also some little kid water slides at the Menehune Bridge.
This is the main water play structure for younger kids. It’s a cool wooden play bridge with all kinds of water features you’d see at any water park.
They also have two water slides here. One for really little kids and one for slightly older kids.
This is an awesome spot for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. It’s a really simple splash pad, but little ones will love stepping on the water and running around the area.
There’s a really cool opportunity for snorkeling at Aulani Resort. They have Rainbow Reef in their pool area, which is a private snorkeling lagoon. This is a saltwater pool that has a coral reef at the bottom, and it’s filled with tropical fish.
You’ll need to reserve a time and pay for this Aulani activity. They provide all the equipment.
For families who don’t want to pay for the experience, you can still check out the fish in the viewing windows.
Ka Maka Grotto
This is a family-friendly infinity pool overlooking Ko Olina Beach, and it is incredible and another one of the awesome pool areas, especially at night. When it gets dark, thousands of lights go on and light up the pool for a special nighttime adventure.
Alohi Point is one of the adults-only pool areas you can enjoy while the kids are at the kids club. This area has two whirlpool spas and an infinity pool that offers gorgeous sunsets you will love. You will also find hot tubs spread out throughout this Disney property as well.
Find the BEST deals for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa HERE.
If you exit out of the pool area and head to the ocean, you’ll see the Aulani lagoon and beach area. It’s roped off to show which section of the beach is for Aulani guests.
You can rent little cabanas or just use the complimentary lounge chairs. They also rent out stand-up paddle boards, and you can book a catamaran boat ride here.
The water is super calm, and it’s perfect for kids of all ages.
There are casabellas are available to rent at both the upper and lower Verandas and currently cost between $175 to $250 for the entire day. Cabanas feature flat-screen TVs and other great amenities and cost around $550 for the day.
We don’t have any Aulani cabana reviews, but if you have a big group and plan to stay the entire day at the pool or beach, it might be worth it.
You can get plenty of sand toys for free and other beach rentals for an added price. Beach chairs do get taken up pretty fast, so arrive early if you plan for a beach day to get your beach chairs!
The lagoon is very relaxing, but if you want to surf, you will need to head to the North Shore, because you won’t find any waves here.
The Aulani spa is pretty fantastic. They have a bunch of services like massages and facials. Plus, you get access to their hydrotherapy garden, where you can enjoy their private soaking pools and an array of showers.
Many of the Aulani spa reviews I’ve heard about were positive, so I decided to go ahead and try it out for myself. The Hydrotherapy Garden was definitely the highlight for me and one of the best features of the spa and fitness center here.
Read my full Laniwai Aulani spa review HERE.
Ka Wa’a Luau
While there are tons of luaus on Oahu, none are more convenient than the Aulani luau if you are already staying there. It’s right on the property, and they do an awesome job of weaving in Hawaiian myths and stories in this theatrical presentation.
Read my full Ka Wa’a Disney Aulani luau review HERE.
There are a few places to shop at Aulani. Kalepa’s Store is the biggest Aulani gift shop, and you can find all kinds of Aulani souvenirs like plushies, spirit jerseys, Minnie ears, and more. I have gotten some fun shirts and other souvenirs from this Disney Aulani store.
Hale Manu is another option and features more high-end items like jewelry and designer clothes/accessories.
Down at the pool area, you’ll find the Lava Shack. This is a great place for beach items and clothing/swimsuits.
They also sell a lot of body products and loungewear at the Laniwai Spa.
The Disney Aulani store hours vary, but I do know they are not open very late. Since it is one of the kid-friendly luxury hotels, things close earlier here than in other resorts.
Disney Characters Meet and Greet
Aulani is one of my favorite places to meet Disney characters because there’s hardly ever a wait. Plus, the characters wear really fun Hawaiian clothing!
The characters make Aulani Resort in Hawaii one of the best Oahu resorts for families who love everything Disney (like us)!
Much like a Disney Cruise, you can get the daily Aulani ‘Iwa, which is a printed calendar of all the fun activities that will be available that day, many of which are included in your stay.
Read my full guide to meeting Aulani characters HERE.
The amount of Aulani activities has changed during the past few years due to the pandemic. When we were there in November 2021, there were just a few activities running. In the past, we’ve loved the storytelling and premium Aulani activities.
My kids had a blast doing the Menehune Adventure Trail. This is where you borrow an iPad that is loaded with video clues, and you solve them by walking around the pool area to complete missions.
They also had a Make Your Own Minnie Ears activity. It wasn’t available during the times that fit our schedule, but we were able to buy a kit to bring home to do it.
Aulani had pin trading every afternoon with a cast member, and that was a big hit with my 7-year-old.
And we saw that they had ukulele lessons for kids and adults. We didn’t have time to do this, but it’s definitely on our list for next time.
Aunty’s Beach House
Ok, so I added Aunty’s Beach House to the list in hopes that it re-opens soon. This is the complimentary childcare at Aulani. You need to register for it, but it’s a great way to get some kid-free time.
They also have cool premium activities that you have to pay for, but most are totally worth it! My oldest did one a few years ago where he made slime and got to hang out with Stitch.
Free childcare is a top reason why Aulani is one of the best places to stay in Oahu for families! The Kids Club is one of the best things I have seen in all the Hawaii Disney resort reviews.
Ko Olina Golf club
The Ko Olina Golf Club is within walking distance and is one of the best golf courses on Oahu. The course is not too challenging but is located perfectly where you can enjoy water features, the ocean, and the beautiful tropical scenery while you play.
Are there any things we didn’t like?
It’s definitely a “splurge” resort. We either rent DVC points or take advantage of sales in order to afford the trip to Aulani.
And the food is just okay. It’s right on par with the food you’d find at other Disney properties. We’re pretty snobby when it comes to our food, and Hawaii has SUCH amazing food that it’s a bit disappointing that the food at Aulani doesn’t measure up.
The Aulani parking rate for both self-parking and valet parking is currently $37 a day. However, if you are a member of the Disney Vacation Club, it is free to park here!
If you plan to stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort the entire time, take advantage of the shuttle service they provide, and don’t get a rental car!
Would we recommend the Disney Aulani Resort?
Absolutely! Disney Aulani is one of my favorite kid-friendly resorts in Hawaii. It’s even fun just to spend a couple of nights there.
We love how easy it is to take photos with characters, hang out at the pool area, and enjoy the customer service Disney is famous for. It’s perfect for an Oahu family vacation. And there are lots of Oahu tours with transportation from Aulani.
If you’re looking for where to stay on Oahu, it doesn’t get much better than Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii. It’s definitely one of the best resorts in Oahu for families!
Find the BEST deals for Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa HERE.
Hotel guests will love this Disney property as it definitely is one of the best Disney resorts to stay at with all kids’ ages.
Disney Aulani Reservations
There are plenty of ways to book your Hawaiian adventure at Disney’s Aulani Resort.
If you live in Hawaii, you can get the Kamaaina rates for Aulani Resort, which can be up to 40% off!
There are also Aulani packages from time to time that offer other discounts to enjoy this gorgeous property. Enjoy booking your Aulani trip here.
Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa FAQs
Sort of. The beach in front of Disney Aulani is open to the public. Non-guests can also attend the Ka Wa’a Luau or make dining reservations. However, only guests can meet characters and hang out at the pools.
It really depends on what you’d like to do. Disney Aulani is so fabulous that you might not want to leave. In that case, just take a shuttle or taxi to/from the airport. However, if you’d like to explore Oahu, I recommend either renting a car for a few days or finding tours with transportation from the Aulani Disney resort in Hawaii.
Pearl Harbor is about a 25-minute drive from Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. You’ll either need to rent a car or book a Pearl Harbor tour with transportation from Aulani.
You can maximize your stay at Disney’s Aulani Resort with even just two days. You can read all about how we did that with our Aulani Disney resort reviews HERE. Ideally, you will want either 3 to 5 days to feel the Disney magic and have an amazing trip.
For the cheapest Disney Aulani prices, it is best to go between April and May or September and October. The Aulani villa rates are usually cheaper during this time, and it typically isn’t as busy during these months as well. The Kamaaina rates at Aulani are a lot cheaper as well, so you can go whenever you want if you live on Hawaii.
No, Aulani is not all-inclusive. You will pay separately for most things during your Hawaiian vacation. However, there are many things included in your stay that you will love at this amazing resort!
Every time we have stayed at this luxury resort, we have loved it, as we talk about in this review, along with other Disney Hawaii resort reviews you’ll find. It is a Disney vacation that embraces the Hawaiian culture. You will love it for your next Disney vacation.
There is no Disneyland in Hawaii. Many wonder, “is Disney in Hawaii?” The only Disney service on the island is this Disney brand resort.
You will find this Disney resort on Oahu, located in Ko Olina. It is about 30 minutes away from the Honolulu Airport.